With the NFL Combine now in the books and free agency ready to start on Monday, I figured it was time to update my mock draft. Clearly what the Pittsburgh Steelers do in free agency will have a massive impact on their Draft plans but until then….
As is always the case when I do these, I am selecting based strictly on what I believe Omar Khan, Mike Tomlin and company will do rather than what I myself would do. These early mock drafts also cannot anticipate what free agent moves the Steelers do either which greatly impacts their draft strategy. Here we go with version 2.0 for 2023.
Round 1 Pick 19: TRADE! Steelers move down to 19 by giving Tampa Bay their 17th in return for pick 175. Pittsburgh selects Kelee Ringo, CB Georgia
The two-time National Champ from Georgia combines both size and speed to be one of the top corner prospects in 2023. most believe he is still quite far from his ceiling too. He is the ideal type of corner to match the ever-increasing ‘big WR’ emerging throughout the league. He’s aggressive and physical against both the run and pass and does well to keep the play in front of him. There are areas of improvement needed such as recognition and overall coverage skills but he’s too good to pass up here at a major position of need.
Mock 1.0 Round One Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Round 2 Pick 32: O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida
While many were anticipating one of the top offensive tackles to be targeted by the Steelers, they instead looked to improve their guard play – specifically at left guard. Torrence is a monster. Originally at Louisiana, he moved to Florida along with his coach Billy Napier. After being a starter for the Cajuns, he stepped into the same role for the Gators. His overwhelming size and hand usage create nightmares for defensive linemen. He isn’t as athletic as some would hope for a 21st century guard, but he’s more than capable. His pass protection is best when he can use his hands, but he’ll need to work on his overall foot speed to deal with speed rushers.
Mock 1.0 Round Two Siaki Ika, DT, Baylor
Round 2 Pick 49: Gervin Dexter, DT, Florida
While not as quick off the ball as you’d like, Dexter has incredible size and two-gapping ability that teams covet. His pass rushing moves can use improvement but when combined with his bull rush they are more than adequate. He has the profile of a classic 3-4 end but has shown the ability to play in several spots across the line. He has to learn how to recognize double teams sooner and keep blockers from getting inside of him but his potential is way too much to pass up.
Mock 1.0 Round Two Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
Round 3 Pick 80: Rashee Rice, WR, SMU
With Diontae Johnson and George Pickens on the outside, the Steelers desperately need a guy in the slot who can get open and make people miss. Rice offers these qualities. There are things to clean up like route running and finding more consistency in catching the ball, but his upside is too much to pass on. He’s a tremendous ‘leap and catch’ guy who relishes battling defenders for the ball. I really liked how he worked to help out scrambling quarterbacks which is an undervalued asset in my book.
Round Three Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
Round 4 Pick 120: Mohamoud Diabate, LB, Utah
Played in over 35 games at Florida before transferring to Utah where he started 12. He’s shown he can be a very good man coverage guy while at the same time he needs more work when in zone. He gets sideline to sideline in a hurry and plays with great physicality and aggressiveness. Showed excellent versatility by being used as a blitzer from the edge and up in the middle. I believe he’ll be an instant Special Teams player and has the potential to eventually be a starter.
Round Four Joe Tippmann, C, Wisconsin
Round 5 Pick 175 (trade with TB): Payne Durham, TE, Purdue
With the possibility of losing Zach Gentry in free agency and with Pat Freiermuth’s concussion history, the Steelers have to have a capable tight end reserve. Connor Heyward is not that guy so enter Durham. He’s a very traditional ‘Y-tight end’ who has blocking capability when on the move and while blocking in-line. His speed, or lack of, isn’t going to concern defenses, but he’s good at finding holes in zones and has above average hands.
Round 7 Pick 234: Karl Brooks, DT, Bowling Green
The Lansing, Michigan native became on of the MAC’s biggest disruptors over the last couple of seasons. He’s one of the better pass rushing interior defenders in this draft with the ability to bull rush and a catalog of moves. There will be questions about the level of competition as well as whether he can handle the run game. He has a great motor however and has versatility across the front.
Round Seven Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati
Round 7 Pick 241: Jartavious Martin, CB, Illinois
Martin offers immediate versatility in the secondary and perhaps most importantly he can play the slot nickel position quite well. He has great feet and is a superb athlete with a 11’1″ broad jump and 44″ vertical to match his 4.46 forty time. He will need to increase his strength and may struggle with tight ends but he’s more than worth the selection here in the seventh.
Round Seven Viliami Fehoko, EDGE, San Jose State